Ernie Els ahead by 2 to open Charles Schwab Cup Championship

League: Golf

Posted on: 10 Nov, 2023 at 12:26 AM

Credit: Rob Schumacher/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

Ernie Els poured in eight birdies and established a two-shot lead after the first round of the Charles Schwab Cup Championship on Thursday in Phoenix.

Els' bogey-free, 8-under 63 puts him two ahead of Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand, Stephen Ames of Canada and Harrison Frazar.

Steve Stricker, who has already clinched the season-long Schwab Cup title, withdrew from the tournament at Phoenix Country Club earlier this week when his father was admitted to the hospital for a medical emergency.

The tournament field is vying for second place, and Els would jump from fifth to second in the final standings with a victory Sunday.

The South African started his round with three consecutive birdies and rolled in four on each nine.

"Obviously, we want to finish off on a positive note," Els said. "Obviously, Steve did his thing winning the Charles Schwab Cup this year. There's a lot to play for, a lot of -- take some real confidence out of this last event. The golf course is fantastic, so it kind of forces you to bring your game. ... Let's see what happens at the end of the week."

The 54-year-old World Golf Hall of Famer has won three times on the PGA Tour Champions, including last March at the Hoag Classic.

Frazar, who entered the week No. 12 in points, birdied four of his final five holes for a late push. He won in a playoff last month at the Dominion Energy Charity Classic, his first PGA Tour Champions title.

"A lot has transpired since" that win, Frazar said. "Yeah, I still feel good, I feel confident. I feel like I belong and I feel comfortable out here."

Retief Goosen of South Africa and Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain are tied for fifth at 5-under 66. Steven Alker of New Zealand, last year's Charles Schwab Cup winner, is tied at 4-under 67 with Marco Dawson, Scotland's Colin Montgomerie and South Korea's K.J. Choi.

Padraig Harrington of Ireland, who won the season finale in 2022, opened with a 2-under 69.

--Field Level Media